A touching film about the challenges of life. As familial commitments conflict with dreams of the future, all while coming of age during a difficult time. CODA, which stands for Child of Deaf Adults, is a story focused on Ruby. As the sole hearing member in a deaf family, she helps them navigate obstacles most would overlook.
From communicating medical issues to a simple order for food, Ruby is in many ways the crutch that keeps the family standing. But as she discovers who voice via song, the family must now face the decision as to whether she will continue to help them or follow her passion.
A Film with a Heart of Gold
This film covers so much in a universal way, you’re hard pressed not to find a connection with Ruby. She spends her evenings helping the family making a living by working the fishing business. By day, she attends school. When she discovers her deep passion for singing, she then spends her time after school in choir and eventually singing lessons. She’s always there for everyone she cares about and hardly asks for anything in return. She truly is the best person anyone could ask for in their life.
While she’s fishing, she’s the only one onboard that can ensure the family isn’t ripped off when they sell their catch. At school, she’s teased because of her family’s hearing issues. When the idea of falling in love comes into the equation, things only get more complicated for her. There simply isn’t one time of the day where she has the change to breathe and just take things in. Going from one task to the next, she gives her all to get things done.
But it’d be impossible to discuss these challenges without going into her commitment to her family, and how much she cares for them. To love someone requires great sacrifice, and Ruby sacrifices so much to ensure they’re taken care of. From a humorous doctor’s visit, to being the one to call Grandma, simple requests become daunting pressures. As sudden devotion to her own future requires sacrifices for the family. Challenges she’s not sure they’ll able to overcome.
These challenges in combination make it seem like there isn’t really a place for her to simply be herself. And when her family seeks her assistance as she finds her voice, she questions whether she can be the bird singing in a cage or if she can sing freely around the world. When her music teacher discovers her magical songs, she slowly finds the confidence to proceed with her only passion in life. And for once, she’s able to recognize the potential that is her true self.
Yet as she begins to feel different from her family, the more time she spends away from them, the more she realizes she’s more like them than anyone else. Her father in particular presents the headstrong, giving, and loving person that wishes for her to happy. As they bond throughout the film, you begin to see how she shares so much with him despite their differences. Making the idea of leaving home even more difficult.
Unlike many musicals, people just don’t break into song and dance. In CODA, music is a part of her life. Ruby sings when she’s happy. Sings when she feels love. And sings when she wants to have fun. Song is built into the tapestry that is her very being. You quickly notice that being without music is just impossible for her. As she’s spent so much time singing around her family, it’s really become a part of who she is.
This escapable force of beauty that has found her through her voice refuses to let go. She truly has a gift, and it’s a bit of shame as her family would love nothing more than to enjoy it with her. The musical aspect here is also very natural and easy to appreciate for its realistic approach. It never takes you out of the film via big set pieces, keeping its feet on the ground. Simultaneously, the music will soothe your ears in a humble way the befits her character. The music in CODA is a lovely surprise to find in such a compelling comedy drama.
It’s About Love
If there’s one thing CODA is all about, it’s about love. Loving someone despite their differences. Loving yourself throughout your personal conflicts. Turning what you love into a passion that’ll bring joy into every day. And understanding that love can be found in the most fractious of environments.
By the end of CODA, you’ll come to realize that no matter what in life, focus, goodwill, and putting everything you have into what you’re good at can go beyond making others smile. It can even bring a smile to yours as well.